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Greencycles II

Greencycles II

TW6 - Physiology of Primary Production in Terrestrial and Marine Plants

TW6 Group

Event Dates: 22-25th May 2012
Location: London, England
Organisers: Prof. Colin Prentice, Imperial College London, UK
ECTS Point Allocation: 3

This training workshop dealt with the mechanisms that drive primary production, the most fundamental process in the biosphere and the foundation of life. The topic was considered from a wide-ranging perspective, considering the diversity of plants (including phytoplankton), satellite observations of the "greenness" of both the land and the ocean, analysis of the environmental controls on primary production in both domains, and modelling of the effects of changes in atmospheric composition and climate on the terrestrial and marine biosphere. The workshop was held at the Silwood Park Campus of Imperial College during 22-25 May 2012.

The director of the workshop was Colin Prentice, Imperial College/Macquarie University. In addition, there were lectures by the following people:

Marine scientists

  • Richard Geider, University of Essex
  • Anna Hickman, University of Southampton
  • John Raven, University of Dundee
  • Shubha Sathyendranath, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Terrestrial scientists

  • Sharon Cowling, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Andrew Friend, University of Cambridge
  • Lina Mercado, University of Exeter
  • Jean-François Soussana, Institut national de la recherche agronomique
  • Clermont-Ferrand, France

The programme consisted of a mixture of lectures and computer-based practicals, with a marine practical (based on a simple ocean biogeochemistry model) led by Anna Hickman and a terrestrial practical (based on the prototype Earth System Atlas) led by GREENCYCLES II Fellow Ioannis Bistinas. Plenty of discussion time was allowed after each lecture, and open-air lunches and social events each evening promoted good interactions among participants.

At the end there was a general discussion on modelling, which led to agreement on the following main points which have significant implications for the way in which Earth System modeling is carried out.

  • There is considerable room for improvement in models of both terrestrial and marine ecosystem processes, and there has not been much progress during the last decade in narrowing the uncertainties in model predictions. Some of the same issues identified a decade ago as problems with biospheric models are still unresolved, including the controls on ecosystem nitrogen budgets, the estimation of many key parameters, and the inclusion of acclimation to changing environmental conditions.
  • Marine biosphere models have to be run within a context of ocean physics models. These are much better developed and less uncertain than biospheric models, thus providing a good basis for the further development of single-column models of biogeochemical processes. Models are generally quite impenetrable for non-specialists and there is a need for a textbook to explain how they work.
  • Collaboration between experimentalists and modellers could be strengthened greatly, to the benefit of both communities. It would help is they were co-located to a greater extent than is the case now (especially as regards terrestrial models).
  • Some degree of physical modelling is involved in the modelling of both terrestrial and marine ecological processes. In the terrestrial realm, the effects of vegetation on water balance, heat partitioning etc. are well known and form part of the paradigm of "land surface" modelling in climate models. But ocean ecosystems, too, modify their physical environment (e.g. vertical profiles of light absorption and heat distribution) and this aspect has received much less attention by climate modellers.
  • Model intercomparison projects are valuable, and so far, such exercises for ecosystem models have tended to cast doubt on the rigour of the way in which models are developed. In the interests of greater rigour and transparency there would be considerable merit in moving towards an open source paradigm for model development.


  1. Chao Ting Chang, CREAF, Spain – GC
  2. Katherine Crichton, LGGE, France – GC
  3. Rozenn Keribin, University of Cambridge, UK – GC
  4. Jana Kolassa, Estellus, France – GC
  5. Alex Marti-Donati, University of Exeter, UK – GC
  6. Maria Martin Calvo, Imperial college London, UK – GC
  7. Jorge Martinez-Rey, LSCE, France – GC
  8. Dominik Sperlich, CREAF, Spain – GC
  9. Peter Landschuetzer, UEA Norwich, UK – GC
  10. Altug Ekici, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany – GC
  11. Ioannis Bistinas, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal – GC
  12. Callum Berridge, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands – GC
  13. Matteo Willeit, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany – GC
  14. Daniela Dalmonech, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany – GC
  15. László Hunor Hajdu, University of Cambridge, UK – GC
  16. Gerardo López Saldaña, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal – GC
  17. Mehera Kidston, IPSL, France – GC
  18. Payne Mark, DTU, Denmark
  19. Clement Dominic, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  20. Colleen O'Brien, ETH Zurich, Switzerland – GC
  21. Charlotte Laufkoetter , ETH Zurich, Switzerland – GC
  22. Muennich Matthias, ETH Zurich, Switzerland